Oil Profiles – Anise Oil

Aniseed essential oil
Botanical Name Pimpinella anisum
Botanical Family Apiaceae
Part of the plant Seed
Cas Number 84775-42-8
FEMA Number 2094
Main Origins Spain, Egypt Turkey
Harvest Period July - September

Anise is an annual herb that grows to a height of about 60 cm. Flowers are white and form light umbels in summer. The seeds are oval and green in color (that is why this oil is also known as "green anise").
This plant is often confused with "star anise", Illicium verum, or with "Japanese star anise", Illicium anisatum.

A BIT OF HISTORY

Anise was first cultivated in Egypt and the Middle East, and was brought to Europe for its medicinal value. The seeds were an important ingredient of a spiced cake called Mustaceum, which the Romans ate as a digestif at the end of an elaborate feast. It was introduced in Europe during the Middle and was so popular in England that King "Edward I" taxed it to raise money to repair London Bridge.

OIL PRODUCTION

The seeds, once harvested and cleaned, vary in size between 4-6 mm and are green in color, hence the commercial name "green anise".They are usually distilled with a previous "cleaning" or separation of the herb, with a yield between 2.5% - 4%, obtaining the "Anise Seed Oil". Sometimes, due to the high cost, the whole herb is distilled with a yield between 1 - 1.5%, obtaining the "Aniseed Oil".

Most of the world production is used in the food market, mainly in bakery and alcoholic beverages such as "Anise" in Spain, "Raki" in Turkey or "Pastís" in France. In aromatherapy, is mainly used as digestive, antispasmodic and anti-fungal. It is currently used in various children's medicines for the removal of intestinal gases.

The oil obtained is a colorless or light yellow liquid that sometimes crystallizes at low temperatures (due to the melting point of Anethole, the main compound of anise). Over the years it has been replaced by another cheaper oil obtained from the spice called "Anise Star". However, the fine licorice odor and flavor of anise oil make it irreplaceable for certain applications.

A BIT OF CHEMISTRY

The main molecule resposible for its anise's characteristic odor and flavor, and properties, is Trans-Anethol, a phenylpropanoid. It has been reported as Oestrogenic, Antispasmodic, and Anesthetic. This substance is prone to oxidation, producing Anisaldehyde and Anise Ketone. Its most similar isomer is called "Estragole", or "Methyl Chavicol", abundant in tarragon (Asteraceae) and basil (Lamiaceae), which has also a flavor reminiscent of anise.

Anethol Ex-Aniseed oil
Trans-Anethole
Estragole Ex-Aniseed oil
Estragole

Despite the existence of two production areas with different yields, only one chemotype is known on the market, with the following characteristic compounds:

Trans-Anethol 87% - 94%
Estragole 0.5% - 5%
Gamma-Himachalene 1% - 5%
Para-Anisaldehyde 0.1% - 1.4%
Pseudoisoeugenyl 2-Methylbutyrate 0.3% - 2%

Cis-Anethol is more toxic than Trans-Anethol, and its maximum level should be controlled (0.4% maximum). Estragole is considered a carcinogen and is restricted in cosmetics by IFRA. It is important to remark that the similar herb, the Japanese Star Anise oil “Ilicium anisatum” (Shikimi fruit), contains a toxic lactone: Anisatin.

This oil is often adulterated with the cheaper Star Anise oil, natural Anethol (Ex-Star Anise) or synthetic Anethol.

REGULATIONS & SPECS

  • Monographs: ISO 3475, European Pharmacopoeia, FCC.
  • IFRA: Permitted (Restricted constituents: Estragole)
  • Cosmetic Allergens: Limonene, Linalool, Eugenol.
  • Safety summary: The recommendation is a dermal maximum of 2.4% and a daily oral maximum of 70 mg based on Estragole content.

References

  • Anise (Pimpinella anisum L.) from Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages
  • Ruiz García, M., Ruiz Cardenete, A., Ruiz Cardenete, J. El mundo de los aceites esenciales. La guía definitiva, 1st ed. AMV Ediciones, Madrid, Spain, 2020
  • Buckle 2015, Chapter 3, Basic Plant Taxonomy, Basic Essential Oil Chemistry, Extraction,Biosynthesis, and Analysis.
  • The Chemistry of Aromatherapeutic Oils. Joy Bowles
  • Universal Encyclopaedia of Phyto-Aromatherapy, acphytaroma.
  • Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals, Robert Tisserand, Rodney Young (2014)
  • Eur. Ph 01/2008
  • ISO 3475:2006

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